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How to Avoid Failing at SMS Marketing

Mobile or SMS marketing sometimes starts off the same way businesses started with websites back in the early days. In the beginning they thought “We need a website!”. So they’d manage to get a website up and then discover no one ever visited the site. In fact, most customers didn’t even know they had a website. Those that did usually found the website was nothing more than a brochure or advertisement online.

What those businesses would discover in time, is that just having a website isn’t good enough. They needed to let people know about it, and then make sure the website was offering the content, services, or information people wanted. It was a process.

Mobile marketing is the same in so many ways. The kneejerk reaction is to create an app, or to run mobile ads, or to start an SMS list. But without really understanding what it’s all about, you can waste a lot of time and money before realising what you actually need to do.

SMS campaigns

Since we’re an SMS service provider, I’m going to focus on what to do if you’ve decided to start your mobile marketing with SMS messaging (a good choice by the way!). There’s lots to learn about apps and ads too, but I’m going to stick with SMS.

To start an SMS campaign, you’ll need to get an account with an SMS service provider (hint: click the green “Sign Up” button at the top of this webpage).

Once you have an account, you’ll need to decide if you want to send one-way or two-way messages. Both mean what they say. One-way messages mean you can only send to people. Two-way means you can send and the recipients can reply. Generally speaking, you’ll want two-way messaging for mobile marketing campaigns. This gives people an easy way to sign up and to opt out if they choose (both important things for staying compliant with regulations regarding electronic marketing).

To use two-way, you’ll need to either purchase a virtual mobile number (VMN) or keywords on a shortcode. There isn’t enough room here to go into why you’d choose one over the other, but you can read the two-part series I wrote Should you choose a VMN or Shortcode?

Once you’ve decided which you’ll use, you’re ready to do some testing. With each fastsms account you’ll get free credits to do so and you’ll be an expert on the system in no time. But wait! Here’s the point where the danger of repeating the website fiasco above begins.

Take time to plan

Before you jump in and spend money on credits for messages or anything else, stop and plan how you’re going to make your SMS list work. The most important question is:

How are we going to let people know about our list?

Much like those first websites on the internet, an SMS marketing list that no one knows about does you no good. This isn’t a question that should be in the “we’ll figure it out later” pile. For an example, here’s a quote from Craig Weinberg on Marketing Land,

“When I first cut my teeth on ringtones, SMS shortcodes and album art phone wallpaper (back in ye olde days, 2006–09), we quickly learned that plastering Billy Joel’s SMS shortcode with a CTA to text in for a few MP3s in exchange for joining his fan club doesn’t get you very far if that shortcode isn’t plastered on Billy’s site, his physical albums, his posters, in concert venues and so on. If no one sees it, it’s as if it isn’t happening.”

In that quote you see the point that you need to advertise it. He also does a quick list of all the places they needed to put it in order to be successful. What opportunities do you have to advertise the list in your existing situation?

You can put it on your website, in your physical store (if you have one), send out an email about it – put it anywhere you’d normally advertise and then some. I’ve read a few great success stories that started from people posting signs in their loo. Really.  Anywhere people will stop and read it, you should put it.

If you’re able to get the word out and get people to notice and sign up, it’s the equivalent of getting your website on page one of Google.

But even before you get to that point, you’ll want to continue planning and ask these three questions to help ensure your campaigns will be successful:

What do we want from our SMS list? Are you looking to generate sales, foot traffic, website traffic? Make a list of your goals – and it can be all of those things and more – so you’ll know how to measure if you’re successful.

What sort of offers do we want to make? Will you offer discounts, special sales, exclusive events, or other promotions? Once you have this list, move on to the next question.

Will our customers want the offers were sending? This is a hard one to answer honestly sometimes. And sometimes there’s no way to know until you try. A BOGO sale in store might fail miserably when sent out via SMS. It may be because of the timing, or other factors you’ll have to discover. But pretend you’re a customer, would you want to be alerted via SMS for your offers?

Just taking the steps of asking and answering these questions will help you avoid many pitfalls of beginning an SMS marketing campaign. There’s more to learn too. Check out this page with our business sector guides to learn more about using SMS marketing in your particular business. Don’t see one you think fits? Connect with us on Live chat and we’ll be happy to help you get started.

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